Saturday, October 20, 2012


(2011) **1/2

This is a pretty paint-by-numbers thriller starring Liam Neeson as doctor who, while traveling in Berlin for work, falls into a coma for 4 days only to wake up and find that all of his acquaintances (including his wife) don't recognize him. And there's another dude in his place, going by his name, holding hands with his wife, presenting his paper at a biochem conference, and so on. Then some folks start trying to kill him, and he has to try and figure out wtf is up.

I didn't hate the early stuff when it looked like the film was reversing the tired old amnesia story--what happens if you wake up and the world has amnesia towards you? It was sort of a Lady Vanishes setup, I thought. Ah, but then they try and get too cute with it, and the unraveling of the plot became pretty derivative of the Jason Bourne movies. I think someone even says at one point: "I can't believe you really don't remember." Nice writing!

January Jones plays Neeson's wife in this. And yeah, I checked. She's 34 and he's 60. The movie opens with them in a cab together, and from that moment on, not a single things happens that you believe any more than you believe that January Jones would be married to a 60 year old. There's something about her acting style that leaves me cold, btw. She's fine to look at no doubt, but she has some kind of reticent quality (I notice it on Mad Men too) that I'm not crazy about. It's like all her dialogue comes from really far forward in her mouth; nothing seems to come from deep down. Her laughs are all giggles, for instance.

There are two really good parts to this movie I should mention.

1) Lots of cool location shots of Berlin. I've never been to Berlin, so I'm guessing here, but they seemed to really capture what Berlin is like these days, nearly 20 years after the wall came down (man it's been that long?).

2) Bruno Ganz plays an ex-Esat German spy, and his brief scenes are the best in the film, particularly one when he matches wits with another old spook played by Frank Langella.

Oh well, I wasn't expecting much from Unknown, and it didn't deliver much. It was the closest thing I could get to a horror movie that my wife had any interest in viewing that night. Didn't have another Cabin the Woods quality flick on hand, dammit. So I went with a safe glossy thriller, and I guess it passed the time. And actually, the beginning does feel a bit like a Twilight Zone episode, but then it sort of cops out. Not horrendous, but you've seen this all before.


Catfreeek said...

If I had to describe this film in one word I would chose forgettable. I watched some time back and totally forgot abot it.

DCD said...

I find it interesting that Liam Neeson seems to have taken on more of these thriller/action roles of late. I like him, but it seems to go back to your point about the age gap with January Jones, LS. I think he's getting into this genre kind of late.

AC said...

excellent review.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I was intrigued by the concept (which did seem like a Twilight Zone) and the preview but not enough to take the plunge. Based on your review I made the right choice!

Crystal Math said...

I think I might end up watching this since by some strange phenomenon I've worked my way through most of Liam Neeson's resume; but in general amnesia-based plots are none of my business unless they bring something new to the table.

Octopunk said...

I haven't seen this but I feel similarly about January Jones. I saw her in X-Men: First Class and didn't understand the appeal, but then I totally got why she works in Mad Men. I have doubts that she'll really do well outside that context.